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Photo by Jason Leppert
Viking Cruises has and continues to make waves on the rivers with its Viking River Cruises brand, and now it is at it again on the high seas with its new Viking Ocean Cruises ships. The company's mission is simple: luxury level cruise travel offered at an astounding value.
At first glance, Viking cruises aboard the new Viking Star and Viking Sea (pictured above) are approaching luxury pricing, and certainly quality, but when one considers the breadth of inclusions, the per diem breakdown puts it much closer in line to lower premium level cruise costs.
Inclusions start with the usual meals and basic drinks but extend well beyond to alternative restaurants (save for The Kitchen Table shore excursion and dining experience); 24-hour specialty coffees, teas and room service; wine, beer and soft drinks during lunch and dinner; self-service laundry (full-service for suites); Wi-Fi internet and one shore excursion in every port. The latter two are usually only included with the upper echelon of cruising.
Viking Cruises founder and chairman Torstein Hagen said, "The thing that differentiates ourselves from competitors … is what incredible value we are. It's not immediately obvious to everybody because so much is included in what we offer. But when we adjust for that … we have a per diem which is at the Holland America Line level, and I think we have a product, with a larger cabin than Holland America Line, that I'd say is better than the Azamaras and Oceanias."
As such, Viking Ocean Cruises really defies categorization, sitting somewhere between upscale and luxury companies at premium line prices. In reality, Viking is defining its own version of luxury that is more casual and homey. Viking is wise to avoid classifying itself as a luxury line, however, realizing that luxury means different things to different people. Of course, the service standards onboard are so high though that guests feel greatly pampered regardless.
The bottom line is consumers and travel agents need to look, well, beyond the bottom line, to recognize the Viking value found in its remarkable inclusions, hardware and software alike. Hagen added, "… we probably need to do a better job on the travel agents to make sure they understand what real value we have. We will come out with a different way of looking at pricing, now more transparent … [that is] being changed over the next two, three months. And then people will see more clearly what we have, and we'll spell out the value of all the included services. So, I think that should help convince them."
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Jason Leppert - Senior Writer, Cruises and Cruise Travel - is a San Diego-based cruising expert with more than 100 sailings...
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